Monday, January 04, 2010

Oh! The wonders you'll see!

Is it just me, or has the new millennium been all about taking away free stuff we all took for granted, then putting a "digital" label on it and charging us a pretty penny to get back a convoluted version?

According to the Wall Street Journal -- whose "paywall" you can avoid here, thanks to the Scourge of Murdoch (a.k.a. Google) -- the next big thing is going to be watching local TV channels on "mobile devices."

Kind of like the one I got for Christmas . . . in 1970.

YOU THINK they'll call these tech wonders something really hip and cool . . . like "portable TV"? Or maybe Sony will make one of these new-fangled thingies and call it a "Watchman."

Watching live television broadcasts on mobile devices is common in some countries, but not the U.S. A new effort is taking shape to change that.

A group of broadcasters plans to use this week's Consumer Electronics Show to promote their plans to deliver news, sports, weather and other local content to users on the go. While cellphones are an obvious target, backers of the effort also expect users to receive local programming on laptop computers, portable DVD players and devices in cars.

Results may not come quickly, or easily. Competition for users' attention is stiff, including an array of on-demand video offerings for mobile devices as well as another mobile broadcasting network that is trying to build a U.S. audience.
DO TELL, how much of our dwindling income will we have to part with to acquire this "mobile TV" cornucopia of Oprah and Everybody Loves Raymond reruns?
The transition from analog to digital-only television broadcasts, completed last June, spurred the new effort. Compression technologies associated with digital transmission allow local broadcasters to offer high-definition TV service and still have extra channels for mobile services, too.

With most television viewers receiving signals over cable-TV or satellite services, backers see Mobile DTV as one way to keep a direct connection with viewers.

"We're looking five, 10 years down the road—how do we stay viable?" says James F. Goodmon Jr., a member of the coalition and vice president of Capitol Broadcasting Co., owner of station WRAL in Raleigh, N.C. "Last thing we want is to be behind the curve," he says.


In South Korea, consumers since 2005 have watched television on cellphones using a technology called DMB, for digital multimedia broadcasting. Qualcomm Inc., the San Diego cellphone-chip maker, has lined up programming for a mobile broadcast service called FLO TV that is sold in the U.S. by AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone PLC. AT&T's service starts at $9.99 a month.

Though most FLO TV users purchase specially modified cellphones, Qualcomm plans to market a special device for receiving the broadcast service along with an $8.99 monthly service fee.

Brandon Burgess, chairman of the broadcasters' coalition, argues that FLO TV is too expensive. The coalition hopes to differentiate Mobile DTV with free local content.

Consumers also may be able to watch simulcasts of national programming carried by the networks, though rights to some content may have to be negotiated by broadcasters, the coalition says. Over time, premium services also may be added.

"Having premium content like ESPN available on a mobile device is great, but it's not our starting point," Mr. Burgess says. "We'll start with local broadcasts to try to educate consumers."

Mobile DTV requires new equipment for broadcasters, as well as new hardware for consumers. Among the products to be unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is the Tivit, an accessory from Valups Corp. that receives Mobile DTV signals and transfers them to devices that have Wi-Fi connections, including laptop personal computers or Apple Inc.'s iPhone. Pricing is expected to range from $90 to $120.
TRULY, an infinitesimal price to pay for such staples of local-broadcasting goodness such as Ken and Barbie Mangle the News, old Billy Mays infomercials and Live With Regis and Kelly.

I hope you feel blessed to live in a gilded age such as this.

Perhaps, if we're extra-special lucky, somebody will offer a "mobile live-audio entertainment" device so we can hear a real-time music guru thoughtfully putting together sets of music listeners might enjoy, then providing commentary about the songs and other miscellany.

And if we're super-duper extra-special lucky, it'll only cost us something like $29.95 a month.

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